Modoc-Warner Mountains Mule Deer Recovery Project

Project Summary

Background

The Modoc-Warner Mountains Project is a collaborative effort between CDA, USFS, NRCS, BLM, and private landowners, to restore critical ecosystems back to heathy function. These ecosystems, such as aspen communities, meadows, sage steppe, and riparian corridors, historically have provided necessary high-quality forage, nesting, bedding, and clean water to deer and other wildlife but have been depleted in many areas and no longer provide these necessities. The Warner Mountains are a part of the CDFW Deer Assessment Unit 2 which has been noted as the deer management unit with the greatest decline in deer numbers in the state (Report to the commission 1998).

 

The interstate deer herd as well as local deer numbers have been in a state of decline and noted as the deer herd most critically in need of restoration efforts. Several factors attribute to this decline, factors that have affected the nutritional bands necessary to promote fecundity and neonatal success in deer. In order to maintain or expand deer numbers, nutrition needs to be readily available to deer throughout their range. The lack of successional fire on the landscape, the drastic expansion of juniper, conifer encroachment in aspen communities, dewatering of meadow systems, and over use of critical areas by excessive grazing have contributed to the reduction of quality forage components necessary to maintain/expand these deer populations. Encroachment of conifers into historic meadows have depleted one of the most beneficial and diverse ecosystems that wildlife of the region is dependent on (CDFW).

Specific Goals and Objectives

  • Restore Dry Creek meadow hydrology and native plant communities.
  • Restore the meadow hydrology of Red Rock and Quaking Creeks within Alaska Canyon.
  • Aspen Restoration by removal of conifer encroachment from Aspen stands and surrounding meadows.
  • Juniper treatment/removal to reduce the encroachment of juniper into meadows, aspen, and sage steppe habitats.
  • Restore springs and clean water flow within meadow and riparian areas.
  • Removal of non-wildlife friendly fencing and installation of wildlife friendly fence.
  • Seeding/Planting to restore native plant communities and improve deer forage.

Project Details

  • Dry Creek meadow includes approximately 400 feet of eroded channel has formed in a mountain meadow. The original sodded vegetation still exists; however, the 3 ft. deep channel is dewatering the site. This change in hydrology will continue to turn meadow grasses and vegetation communities to upland vegetation and brush types. Restoration of this meadow system will include installation of 9 structures. These structures will consist of engineered panels and provide the same results as Zeedyk structures and rehydrate the meadow utilizing a plug and spread method. The channel will be stabilized, restoring/salvaging the historic meadow boundaries and the beneficial vegetation communities found within these ecosystems (attachment shows structure and grading).

 

  • Red Rock and Quaking Creeks within Alaska Canyon will require many of the same treatments and restoration practices. Down and dead woody materials indicative of Sudden Aspen Death syndrome have created diversions in the natural hydrology of the meadows and disconnected natural flows of the meadow. Removal of this woody debris and restoring natural flow to the channels is the outlined treatment. There are several eroded channels as well as eroded cut-banks. There will be several structures installed to address erosion and reconnect hydrological order to the meadow. These structures will include One Rock Dams, Zuni Bowls, and Zeedyk structures constructed from organic materials. These will be built to return water to historic meadow edges and promote aspen and mesic and hydric vegetation growth to reestablish quality forage components beneficial to wildlife and subjugate species.

 

  • Aspen restoration includes removal of encroaching conifers from Aspen stands and meadows. Several locations throughout the project area have aspen stands in need of restoration efforts, the encroachment of conifers into these aspen stands has hindered their regrowth. Issues with maintaining adequate water and meadow hydrology has also had an adverse effect on aspen health and regrowth. Conifer in the aspen stands will be hand cut, lopped, and scattered. This treatment will allow sunlight to reach the forest floor and promote forb, grass, and aspen sprout growth. The regrowth of both aspen and the herbaceous communities will provide high protein forage and bedding for ungulates. Reference the aspen stands marked on the maps in the appendices.

 

  • Juniper treatments or cuts will be performed with mechanical as well as hand crews to address the encroachment and invasion of juniper into meadows, aspen, and sage steppe habitats. These projects will take place on the Sheep Rock, Dry Creek, Negro Creek, and Parker Creek. These cuts will address slash issues as well and include burning or chipping to reduce fuels as well as debris on the ground. The cut sites in these areas have shown favorable response with increased forb and grass diversity (62%-85% first year response) as well as 50-70% increase in total ground cover. Selection of these cutting sites are prioritized on the diversity of components that will be released after cuttings, water, forbs, bitterbrush, and perennial grasses are the desired results of the juniper removal.

 

  • Spring Restoration includes many of the springs within the project area that have become nonfunctional or compromised due to conifer encroachment, overuse by grazing, erosion, and disruptions to upslope water catches. Repairing these springs and reestablishing supplemental offsite water sources to ease grazing pressure off springs. Callie Spring treatment will consist of clearing conifer from the head of the spring, removing conifer from the aspen stand around the lower portion of the spring, and rebuilding the wildlife friendly exclusion fence around the approx. 20 acre spring site. Lower Dry Creek springs will consist of washed gravel catches inside dug spring boxes/casings. Approximately 400 feet of piping will be installed from the spring box downslope and out of the riparian area. This will lessen impact on the riparian, vegetation, and riparian shrubs from overuse by livestock and promote vegetative growth beneficial to deer.

 

  • Fence Removal within the project sites include 33,000 feet of woven wire fence which impedes deer movement. This fencing is a barrier to migratory deer and antelope as well as restricting access for wildlife to a bitterbrush area within critical wintering forage for deer and antelope. After removal of the woven wire fencing, 11,880’ of wildlife friendly wire fencing will be installed to protect wildlife habitat. The additional 13,280’ of fencing that comprise the perimeter of this protected wildlife area will be installed by other partners. This area contains meadows, springs, aspen, bitterbrush, and bedding shelter and thermal barriers in this watershed and will be managed for wildlife use.

 

  • Seeding/Planting will take place on USFS, BLM, and private properties adjacent to these public lands within the migratory corridor. Only approved native seed mixes will be used on USFS and BLM. The private land is critical to deer and provide much needed food and water to deer during migration, winter, and early spring months. Many of the does will fawn on these properties and spend spring there as they nurse fawns. Providing a quality forage component during this time of year is especially important as lactation during this neonatal time demands the most and best nutrition to promote fawn retention and doe health.

CDFW Selected Priorities

  • Invasive Plant Removal/Treatment: In partnership with USFS, BLM, NRCS and CDFW, this project addresses the encroachment of Western Juniper in the historic meadows/riparian areas and conifer encroachment on Aspen Stands and meadows by removing/cutting using both mechanical and non-mechanical methods. Invasive Species such as cheat grass, scotch thistle, Canadian thistle, various knapweed species, and other invasive plant species will be removed from project sites using methods approved by the regulatory or managing agency.

 

  • Migration Corridor Barriers: In partnership with USFS, BLM, NRCS and CDFW, this project removes 33,000 feet of woven wire fencing impacting migration flow for mule deer and pronghorn. This fence has continued to impact natural migration movements and has restricted the access to bitterbrush stands within the winter range. Removal of this fencing will provide access to natural migration corridors as well as highly desired winter bitterbrush stands. This project also includes treatments affecting connectivity of nutrition throughout the migratory corridor and winter ranges. Juniper removal in bitterbrush areas return sunlight and water to more desirable forage components and addresses forage issues within migration routes and home ranges of deer, antelope, elk, and other wildlife.

 

  • Surface Water Management: Restoring springs and meadow hydrology using Mechanical and Organic methods, surface water levels and meadow will begin to recover allowing for water dispersion restoring historical seed banks with native vegetation.

Expected Benefits

Working within the various ecosystems within this region of the Warner Mountains we look to increase quality forage components for deer and other wildlife. Restoring these areas back to natural function will in turn provide more abundance of these resources to wildlife within the region. The increase in beneficial forage components to enhance deer herd health and promote fawn recruitment and retention is the priority of this project. Connecting projects throughout these migratory corridors with nutrition driving the basis for this work and having long term goals to promote this heathy system is what is necessary to grow deer. Simply put, enhanced nutrition is the key component in growing deer numbers and increasing deer populations expand opportunities.

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Project Details

  • Project Year 2020
  • Project County Modoc
  • Projected Start Date January 1, 2020
  • Funding Source CDFW, Big Game Management Account (BGMA)
  • Focus Restoring Critical Mule Deer Habitat
  • Contact

Restoring critical ecosystems back to heathy function, such as: aspen communities, meadows, sage steppe, and riparian corridors. Historically, these areas have provided necessary high-quality forage, nesting, bedding, and clean water for deer and other wildlife but have been depleted in many areas and no longer provide these necessities.